[Full article: 2010 Outlook: Doom and Gloom For DTC? 
[Full article: 2010 Outlook: Doom and Gloom For DTC? 10 Points for Winning with Patients, published in DTC Perspectives, December 2009]
Despite many gloomy predictions for DTC advertising and the pharma industry overall, there's never been a better time for marketers to forward their brands and consumers' lives with new thinking about what constitutes patient marketing in the 21st Century (DTC 21). Ten prescriptions can help improve focus and strengthen DTC efforts in 2010. Important media and technology trends are also "musts" to actively consider for those who want to bump impact and value.
- Adopt an updated definition for DTC that considers the full picture of how consumers will interpret and interact with a brand TODAY. This calls for attention beyond "big bang" marketing spends, and begs for identifying meaningful levers to drive education and growth. DTC is no longer just an awareness or acquisition vehicle to move "eyeballs" through a linear marketing funnel; it's every influence and touch needed to bring new information and education, help convert, instill loyalty and inspire advocacy.
- Consider "long-tail" marketing; don't be afraid to focus on smaller targets that matter. Long tail marketing has the potential to treat consumers as individuals with unique interests and needs.
- Go to your consumer--surround them where they get their facts, learn, and socialize. Today's consumer is not looking for your marketing messages. Study after study points to both the growth of the Internet, and the fact that consumers and e-patients get their information from multiple sources. (The Social Life of Health Information - PEW Internet and American Life Project) Depending on your target, this suggests a mix of relevant touches and begs for the right combination of off line and on line media and social media tactics.
- Move beyond selling to engaging and providing meaningful marketing and value. Look for new ways to extend patient value, and support a more positive customer experience along each and every touch point. This also means giving consumers and e-patients what they are looking for and not just your "brand sell". Engagement requires looking at each patient as a unique human being who, by the way, would "rather not e your customer" (After all, who wants to have a chronic condition and take medication for the trust of their life, whether it be your rand or a competitors?). Think hard how you might provide relevant value real-time, every time. To improve engagement, 6 C's are crucial: 1) Content that is based on meaningful insights and provides context; 2) Customization via new ways to personalize treatment, process or support; 3) Conversation is encouraged for better service, learning and sharing: 4) Confidence is built with trust and transparency; 5) Community Connectedness - directly or indirectly- create your own, or better yet, tap into an existing one; and 6) Consistent Commitment is demonstrated to your customer base--no one shot deals here.
- Consumer power is a fact of life requiring brands and companies to walk and talk "patient-centered" -- consumers are finely tuned to what's valuable and authentic. Ask yourself one simple question over and over: Will this bring meaningful value to our patients?
- Keep your brand's strategic core strong and grounded, despite the onslaught of messages and tactics, and the speed with which they require action. A strong core requires a compelling and relevant brand promise that focuses every strategy and tactic so they're synergistic and supportive. The payoff is staying on message by protecting the brand from chasing every new, cool digital and new media tactic coming your way.
- Insist on elegant solutions that do more with less. Smaller budgets don't negate innovation and may have just the opposite effect in spurring new thinking.
- Don't overlook the details. While they may seem small and trivial, find out which are important to patients and their families. This can help instill better ROI efficiencies.
- Refresh brand metrics and measurement to drive current brand objectives and initiatives. Think beyond traditional reach and frequency measures and try to ensure a flow of metrics and measurement from beginning to end of the patient "buying process" for maximum learning.
- Be the best listeners in you category. Listen with vigilance, and act on learning across the organization. Listening, and what you do with your learning, is the responsibility of the entire organization. Be sure that each 'tweet" or customer learning gets mapped back to a rightful "owner' in the organization.
In 2010, important media, social platforms and technology trends can't be neglected. Below are some helpful questions to ask as media and technology continue to quickly change (yes...an understatement!):
2010 Media, Social Platforms and Technology TrendsQuestions to ask:
1. Internet growth is not new, but does your consumer budget match the webs growing consumption as a source for healthcare information gathering, engagement and community?
Take advantage of a mix of media and messaging to surround consumer.
2. Is Organic and Paid Search optimized? Are you using Smart Advertising that incorporates behavioral insights? Is a plan in place to address Google Sidewikis?
3. Are you tapping into the growth of web for entertainment? People are increasingly watching TV on the internet via YouTube and Hulu.
4. Is a Social Media Strategy in place that fits with current customer habits? Top platforms to consider: Viral Video, Facebook, My Space, Twitter, Blogs branded and unbranded, company and brand/condition specific. Keep it social, targeted and consider events based marketing.
Online video is now an important way that U.S. consumers research healthcare and medications. YouTube ranks second in overall search volume. Ideally, content and creative should be designed for video and not just re-cut from existing creative elements. Tell a story, but dont exceed two or three minutes. Maximize video placement beyond YouTube, including product.com site.
Facebook now has 300MM active users. Twitter offers different expectations.
5. How are you leveraging Mobiles tremendous opportunity for real-time, 24/7 communication and engagement? Text sells, Apps amplify and use of QR codes can simplify.
60% of all mobile subscribers between the ages of 30-49 are text messaging.
Not only are smart phones growing exponentially among physicians, theyre also growing among consumers.
Apple has already sold 2 billion iPhone apps; 82% of iPhone users download at least 6 apps.
6. Games For Health?
Video games are not just for teen boys; the average gamer is 41 years old. Women are the fastest growing segment. Current largest game segments in health: exercise, brain exercise, condition education, advergames, training and simulations.
Increasingly, games for health are showing hard results around health improvement.
7. Augmented Reality? Use it to entertain, educate and engage.
8. Real-time listening in place? Or a panel established for on-going market research and learning e.g., Communispace?
Pharma: Are you ready for 2010? Despite continued budget tightening and generic growth, and open areas such as health reform and FDA social media and web guidelines, it's going to be a big year for those willing to step up and experiment with new ways of marketing and 'not marketing'...What do you think?
Other Suggested Reading:
The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More by Chris Anderson. Wikipedia's summary of long tail here.
Pharma: Are Current DTC Ads Meaningful? The Next Evolution of Marketing My Book review.
The Next Evolution of Marketing: Connect with your Customers by Marketing with Meaning by Bob Gilbreath, Bridge Worldwide
Susannah Fox, PEW Research Center: The Social Life off Health Information, Twitter and Status Updated, Fall 2009
Pharma: Is Your Brand Patient Centered? 5 Critical Success Factors by Ellen Hoenig, MedAd News, November, 2009
I love You More Than My Dog: 5 Decisions that Drive Extreme Customer Loyalty In Good Times and Bad by J. Bliss
Strong Brand Core: More Core Than Ever?
Pharma: Is Your Marketing Designed to Engage and Educate or Sell? My book review of Listen First Sell Later by Bob Poole
Pharma: Do You Elegantly Use What You Have? My book review of In Pursuit of Elegance by Matthew E May
Photo Credit: Courtney Justice/The Cournell Group